roofs, road fight irk residents
Lake officials say they shouldn't be blamed for troubles at Magnolia Pointe.
|Article Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel
By Dan Tracy
Published March 7, 2004
CLERMONT -- Whenever a hard rain falls, Kevin Alarie checks the ceiling in the spare bedroom of his $128,000 condominium in the exclusive, gated community of Magnolia Pointe.
As often as not, he finds a gray stain forming from water leaking through his roof, despite several attempted fixes during the 21 months he has lived there.
"Why don't you just do it right the first time?" the 41-year-old salesman asked. "I just want it done."
He is not alone. Residents in his and seven other condominium buildings have complained of leaks and roof flaws so numerous no one has been able to count them all.
Adding to their woes is a lawsuit seeking payment that could approach $1 million from virtually everyone living in Magnolia Pointe -- from the condos to the $600,000 estate houses on Johns Lake -- because of a dispute between the former developer and adjacent property owners over rights to use the main road into the subdivision.
"People shouldn't have to put up with this crap," said Jeff Wallace, a 47-year-old commercial real estate broker and four-year resident of the hilly subdivision off State Road 50, just inside the Lake County line.
Wallace and others in Magnolia Pointe, which has more than 250 homes and condos and is still growing, assumed that government -- which issued the development permit and inspected the houses -- would protect them from such troubles. But government oversight does not guarantee a fault-free house or community. That conclusion was among the findings of a yearlong investigation of new home construction in Central Florida by the Orlando Sentinel and WESH-NewsChannel 2.
The series, published late last year and called "Building Homes: Building Problems," showed that neither builders nor government regulators have been able to keep up with the record-breaking new-home construction of the past five years. That rush to build often results in homes of questionable quality, including some with code violations.
A Sentinel-WESH inspection of 406 Central Florida homes built in 2001 turned up 132 apparent violations of the state's building code. But it's possible more were missed. Many areas checked by building officials -- the roof, for instance -- could not be seen by the Sentinel-WESH inspectors because they were covered by concrete, drywall and insulation.
The series also found significant differences in the way the state building code is enforced in Central Florida. Though the code is part of state law, it is enforced by inspectors working for counties or cities.
A review of records from 2000 to June 2003 in six counties revealed that Seminole flunked the most inspections, at 27 percent, while Lake was at the lower end of the scale, at 13 percent. Osceola rejected the fewest inspections, at less than 6 percent.
Code has changed
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Those explanations do little to comfort residents.
"We have been put in a situation that we shouldn't have been put in," said David Bryant, a 35-year-old salesman who moved with his family into a $240,000 house in 1999.
No one disputes that roofs of eight Magnolia Pointe condominiums show multiple code violations, ranging from bad flashing and cracked and falling tiles to missing vents. Inspections by roofing consultants, one in October and the other in December, found numerous faults.
One of the consultants r